Plans to merge Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust with King's College Hospital and the South London and Maudsley Trust have moved a step closer.
The boards of Guy's and St Thomas', King's College Hospital and South London and Maudsley NHS foundation trusts have each agreed to continue exploring plans for an organisational merger and a strengthened partnership with King's College London, their joint academic partner.
The proposal is set out in a strategic outline case which was approved by each of the boards and King's College London, although the college would not be a legal partner in any merger.
"The new organisation would mean better care for our patients, a faster translation of research into treatments and an integration of mental and physical health rarely seen elsewhere," says Professor Sir Robert Lechler, executive director of King's Health Partners.
"It would give us the opportunity to create a world leading institution, capable of attracting the best clinicians, that our patients, communities and staff can be proud of."
If a full business case for this proposal is approved by the boards of the organisations and the regulators, the merger could take legal effect in 2014 – though the partners have warned that uncertainty created by the Government's NHS reforms could delay the process.
The new organisation would have a turnover of about £2.6 billion and around 29,000 staff, but – it is claimed – would be structured so that decisions were taken locally, giving staff greater autonomy and making the organisation more accountable to its patients and commissioners.
The partners have also made clear that key services such as accident and emergency and maternity units would still be provided at both St Thomas' Hospital and King's College Hospital.